58. Memorandum for the Record/1/
Washington, October 17, 1964.
/1/Source: Central Intelligence Agency, DCI (McCone) Files: Job 80-B01285A, Box 6, Folder 10, DCI Mtgs with the Pres, Oct-Dec 1964. Secret; Eyes Only. Dictated by McCone.
Meeting of the National Security Council--Saturday--12:00 o'clock--17 October 1964/2/
/2/Summary notes of the meeting by Bromley Smith are filed in Johnson Library, National Security File, NSC File, NSC Meetings, Vol. 3, Tab 25. For AEC Chairman Glenn T. Seaborg's notes of the meeting, see Journal of Glenn T. Seaborg, Chairman, U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, 1961-1971, Vol. 9, pp. 254-258.
With the President--all members present (except Secretary Dillon) plus Secty. Vance, Secty. Ball and Amb. Thompson
1. DCI opened the meeting with a briefing on the background of ChiCom nuclear capability. I reviewed briefly the Soviet-Chinese collaboration in the mid- and late '50's,
(a) the nuclear energy institute at Peiping with a small heavy water reactor, duplicate of one which I had seen in Moscow (Seaborg had also seen it);
(b) the existence of a suspected U-235 plant at Lanchow which was not completed and we did not expect would be in operation for 2 to 3 years;
(c) the existence of a small air-cooled reactor at Pao Tou with capacity to produce about 10 kilograms of plutonium per year which we thought went into operation in late '63 or early '64 or it might have gone into operation earlier though that is unlikely;
(d) the existence of a suspected graphite-moderated water-cooled reactor in the vicinity of Yumen which was first photographed in 1962 and again in February 1964; at the latter date the reactor apparently was not operational however I stated it may have been shut down for change of fuel elements and hence it was possible, though by no means certain, that the reactor might have been operational in 1962.
I said that the existence of the reactor was not surprising as both we and the Russians had built a small graphite-cooled reactor prior to the construction of our large reactors at Hanford. This reactor had a capacity of between 30 and 35 kilograms plutonium per year.
The test site at Lop Nor which we have observed over the past 2 or 3 years, during recent months had seen considerable activity on the basis of photography of this site, that I had stated in my briefing of the heads of eight Western European Governments that we could expect a nuclear test based on the evidence of the completion of this site within 30 to 60 days from the time of my briefing which was mid-September, and the activities we noted just prior to the explosion such as the stand-down of all aviation in the area and unusual sampling of weather.
2. I then said the known facilities could, if one assumed the earliest operational dates, produce plutonium for the device and some more. Pao Tou alone could not do so, but Pao Tou plus Yumen would give them sufficient plutonium. The two reactors could produce between 40 and 45 kilograms of plutonium per year which would be enough for 6 or 7 crude devices. I noted that both the United States and France had used about 6 kilograms or more plutonium in their initial devices and assumed that the Chinese Communists would use about the same.
3. With reference to delivery capability, I said that the ChiComs had 290 IL-28's with a range of 600 nautical miles and a lift capacity of about 6,000 pounds. The bomb bay however was limited to a 36" diameter bomb although it was 14' long. I said we must wait the diagnosis of the radioactive debris to determine the degree of sophistication of the Lop Nor device and thus make a judgment as to whether the ChiCom present technology would permit them to develop an implosive device small enough to fit into the IL-28 bomb bay. Pointed out they had a few "B-29" types and that they had made a considerable effort in missiles and had an elaborate missile range but it was our observation that their success had been marginal. Therefore it seemed to us that many years would pass before the ChiComs would have a sophisticated delivery capability against nearby territory and we did not see them developing any intercontinental capability at this time.
4. I stated that while we had extensive U-2 and satellite photography over ChiCom, there was an important area in and about Chungking and east on the Yangtze River on which the photography was unsatisfactory and hence there might exist there or elsewhere in China, a reactor or a production complex which we did not know about.
Note: Action: Information received from NPIC on Sunday evening was in sharp variance with this above statement given to me by Jack Smith and Wally Howard on Saturday morning. It is important that I receive a comprehensive evaluation of this situation prior to briefing Leadership.
[Here follows discussion not related to China.]
6. There followed a general discussion and adoption of the general line followed by the President's speech./3/ It was agreed that the President should withhold political trips for a few days; that he should address the public; that he should meet the Leadership and that he should meet with the Cabinet. The sequence of these events to be decided after careful consideration by Messrs. Bundy, Rusk, McNamara and the President himself.
/3/For text of Johnson's radio and television address of October 18 on the Chinese nuclear explosion, the Soviet change of leadership, and the British elections, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1963-64, Book II, pp. 1377-1380.
[Here follows discussion not related to China.]